Opening Day: Modified Standings and Bold Predictions

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It’s just a couple of hours until the first full day of regular season games starts, and I’m here to get you ready.  Sure, you may have have seen my MLB Preview, but this is a condensed, more accurate version.  I even have some bold predictions for the season.  Let’s get started.

 

AL East

  1. Boston Red Sox 91-71
  2. Toronto Blue Jays 86-76
  3. Tampa Bay Rays 82-80
  4. New York Yankees 76-86
  5. Baltimore Orioles 72-90

The Red Sox made a good move starting Travis Shaw over Pablo Sandoval, and Hanley Ramirez has adjusted well to first.  This lineup is new and improved, and ready to take over a weak but tight division.  Even if the rotation behind David Price is a concern, their bullpen makes up for it.

I just don’t believe the Blue Jays can function without better pitching.  When they lost David Price and LaTroy Hawkins, it was back to square one.  The Rays made some good off season improvements but their lineup still lacks power, and the Yankees are just getting too old to be good anymore.  Starlin Castro was a good first step.  Lastly, the O’s don’t have anything to convince me.  Their outfield is seconds away from shattering, and after Miguel Gonzalez’s release, their rotation is still short a pitcher.   So it looks like easy pickings for the Red Sox, even if they’re a shaky team.

yankees-2b-castro

AL Central

  1. Kansas City Royals 93-69
  2. Detroit Tigers 89-73 (WC)
  3. Chicago White Sox 87-75
  4. Minnesota Twins 78-84
  5. Cleveland Indians 74-88

The Royals cannot be beaten in this division, it just won’t happen.  With a strong lineup and balanced rotation, they’re not going down.  They will be closely challenged however as the Tigers and White Sox improve.  They still have weak areas more than the Royals, but they will compete for wild card spots.  They made key signings like Justin Upton and Austin Jackson that take their teams to the next level.

The Indians aren’t horrible like I said but can’t compete in a tough division after such a quiet off season.

The Twins have a reborn lineup but the pitching can’t support young sensations Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano yet.  This division is up for grabs beyond Kansas City, but the Royals have first place locked up.

 

AL West

  1. Texas Rangers 95-67
  2. Houston Astros 88-74 (WC)
  3. Seattle Mariners 81-81
  4. Oakland Athletics 76-86
  5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 68-94

 

Alright, at least I have the Astros in the playoffs.  I just believe that the Rangers have more than Houston.  The Astros don’t even have a starting first baseman, and their young rotation is inconsistent.  The Rangers probably have the best trio of batters in the AL with Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus.  They have some good lineup improvements to support their lineup this off season and their rotation is completely revamped and healthy.

The Mariners went on a full shopping spree this off season, but they didn’t necessarily fill their main holes, so they’ll only be mediocre.  The Athletics are only slightly improved, and the Angels clearly aren’t going anywhere with such an inconsistent rotation and lineup.  So this division will be a tight dogfight between the Rangers and Astros with the Mariners in the wild card bidding.

AL Playoffs

Wild Card: Tigers over Astros

ALDS: Red Sox over Royals

Rangers over Tigers

ALCS: Rangers over Red Sox

 

NL East

  1. Washington Nationals 93-69
  2. New York Mets 90-72 (WC)
  3. Miami Marlins 83-79
  4. Philadelphia Phillies 67-95
  5. Atlanta Braves 64-98

 

Yes, in my modified predictions, the Mets make the playoffs.  I have always underrated them so maybe if I predict a wild card, they’ll win the division.  Even though I usually overrate the Nationals above them, the Nats have a case this year with an improved lineup, and strong rotation.  Who needs Jordan Zimmermann when you have Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez?

The Marlins have the next best chance but are still working on a weak bullpen, and the Phillies and Braves have absolutely no chance and have practically abandoned their teams for the year.  So that leaves the Mets and Nats to have the best battle yet.  I say they both make the playoffs and lose in the NLDS.  What do you think?

 

NL Central

  1. Chicago Cubs 97-65
  2. St. Louis Cardinals 91-71 (WC)
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates 88-74
  4. Cincinnati Reds 73-89
  5. Milwaukee Brewes 69-93

With the exception of maybe last year, this Cubs team is by far the best Cubs team of the century.  They are favorites to win the World Series, and will not be stopped in this division.  The Pirates and Cards still had good off seasons, but have tapered off from last season’s teams.  They have lost many of their best like Neil Walker, Lance Lynn (temporarily) and Jason Heyward.  They will only compete for the playoff spots behind Chicago.

The Brewers and Reds are both in rebuilding stages after making a splash in 2013 and 2014.  They are two of the worst teams in the league and will not compete for this division in any way, shape or form.

 

NL West

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers 92-70
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks 87-75
  3. San Diego Padres 86-76
  4. San Francisco Giants 86-76
  5. Colorado Rockies 63-99

The Dodgers still rule this division even after a weak off season.  The Giants are overrated and young, the D-Backs just aren’t ready yet, and the Padres are a big sleeper but have the potential to be a bust as well.  LA has a strong rotation with great depth and despite numerous injuries, the Dodgers’ spot starters are happy to help, and they do.  The Rockies have done a minimal amount of improvements, and I don’t see them going anywhere.  Their rotation is a mess, and they have such big holes at positions like first base that they’ll have to call up players off of the 40-man roster.

NL Playoffs

 

Wild Card: Mets over Cardinals

NLDS: Dodgers over Nationals

Cubs over Mets

NLCS: Cubs over Dodgers

 

World Series: Rangers over Cubs

 

10 Bold Predictions for the 2016 Season

  1. Former Mariners Smoak and Saunders both bat above .270

Justin_Smoak

Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders’ contributions in Seattle have not yet showed up on the Blue Jays.  I say they both have comeback years and Smoak earns his job back from Chris Colabello easily.  After a .273 avergage in 2014, Saunders batted just .194 in ’15 in just 9 games played.  Saunders missed most of the year.  Smoak has never put up that good of stats, but he has a chance to rebound from the last two years, as he sucked in 2014.

  1. Starlin Castro finally breaks through, as the Yankees star player

You can’t spell Starlin without Star.  Year after year the Cubs have gotten their hopes up about the young shortstop.  However, this young guy has showed his skills and I think he’s ready to fully breakthrough.  I have this guy hitting between .310 and .320 with a personal best in average and dingers.  Hopefully, he can adjust to the Yankees system and be strengthened by the Yanks.

  1. White Sox and Tigers will each get at least 85 wins

Both teams sucked last season, what happened?  They both made very bold moves in the off season, as I had said.  The Tigers have a much better rotation in 2016, while the White Sox have revamped their lineup.  They may not beat the Royals in the division race, but between the two of them, they could put on a big fight.

  1. Eric Hosmer and Jason Heyward win MVPs

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The Royals have had Hosmer his entire career and he’s just been a subpar star the whole time.  When will he fully breakout and have a rampage season?  2016 of course.  Hosmer’s stats have increased recently as he takes a lead role on the Royals.  He is a well known veteran in Kansas City and it’s time that his name is known league-wide.  Heyward meanwhile has developed really well and after a strong year with the Cardinals, he looks like a serious MVP candidate.  He put up a career best .293 average last season.  The Cubs have put him in a crucial role and Heyward’s ready to nail it.

  1. Yu Darvish wins AL Comeback Player and AL CY Young

yu-darvish

I have Yu Darvish winning both the AL Cy Young and AL Comeback Player of the Year.  The guy looked outstanding in his rookie season and when he’s healthy, I think he could still do great things.

  1. Mets infield hits 3 times more homers than Yoenis Cespedes

Between Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker, the Mets have made a splash in the infield.  Add on David Wright and Lucas Duda, and you’ve got yourself the infield of a super-team.  Between all those guys, I think they will hit 3 times the homers of Yoenis Cespedes.  I think Cespedes will hit about 40 homers.  However, I think each of the Mets infielders will hit 20-35 dingers this year.  They have a lot of potential.  That’s what potential can do.

  1. Harrison and Freese combine for 70 dingers and Pirates only win 88 games

Yes, even with the Pirates winning just 88 games and missing the playoffs, I see the hitting doing surprisingly well this year.  I have two mediocre guys combining for 70 taters, and one of them isn’t even a full time starter.  That doesn’t even include Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte.  The Pirates lineup is overpowered to an extreme level.

  1. At least one Reds player comes in the Top 5 in the NL for AVG, HRs or ERA

There are many candidates on the team that could do this.  Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, even Raisel Iglesias or Homer Bailey.  But I think despite the Reds not being that good as a team, they have veteran players that can do big things when given the chance.  The Reds had a somewhat healthy year last year, and I’m feeling it will happen again.

  1. Giants run out of even-year luck, miss playoffs

Yes, the Giants don’t win the World Series in 2016, or even make the playoffs.  The NL just has too many teams that are better this year.  The Mets aren’t going to miss the playoffs even if the Nats beat them out in the NL East!  That leaves the Cards, D-Backs, Pirates and Giants to fight over Wild Card #2. Compared to those three teams, the Giants look like garbage.  Well what if they win the division?  No way, not happening.  The Dodgers are just too hard to beat even after such an empty off season, and if they don’t win, the D-Backs have a pretty good chance too.

  1. Entire Dodgers rotation ends up with ERAs under 3.50

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The Dodgers rotation is stacked.  Despite injuries, it’ll start the season looking like this:

  1. Clayton Kershaw
  2. Kenta Maeda
  3. Scott Kazmir
  4. Hyun-Jin Ryu
  5. Alex Wood

Even without Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy, that rotation is pretty overpowered.  Kenta Maeda was a star in Japan and I think he can adjust, and if Scott Kazmir pitches like he did in Houston, then the Dodgers top 3 is ready to shut down the league.  Hyun-Jin Ryu is efficient and powerful when he’s healthy, and Alex Wood can really pitch if they need him.

 

Enjoy your Opening Day!  Go Red Sox!

 

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Scouting Report: Chicago Cubs

 

 

 

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The Cubs have been one of the most effective teams this off season.  They snagged Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, Dexter Fowler and other top free agents.  They already went to the NLCS in 2015, who knows how powerful they’ll be in 2016.  This article looks at all the moves this team made to fill the cracks from the 2016 NLCS and look at some question marks at camp.  Can this team win their first ring in ages?

 

Off-Season Review

 

The Cubs had a pretty effective off season.  They got stars, prospects and everything else they need to win a pennant.   The Cubs came in to the off season with clear needs: rotation and bullpen help, an outfielder and maybe a middle infielder.

You could’ve never seen what was coming based on how slow the Cubs were to begin the off season.  They got Spencer Patton in a trade with Texas, who will compete for a roster spot now that Rex Brothers is gone.  Oh, by the way, they got him in November via free agency and released him at camp.  All the sudden, on the first day of the Winter Meetings, they got super busy!  They traded Starlin Castro to the Yankees for Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan and signed Ben Zobrist in his place, moving Addison Russell to short.  They later released Ryan and he signed with the Nats, but they held on to Warren.  Still not much in return for their star shortstop who might be a second baseman in New York.  Throughout the winter meetings they got some minor deals in.

They signed relievers Brandon Gomes and Jean Machi and resigned Trevor Cahill.  But their biggest splash was at he end of the meetings.  There was a tight race for Jason Heyward.  Many teams, including the Cardinals, Nationals and Cubs were interested, until the Cubbies struck an eight year deal with the prime-age outfielder.  After the Meetings it was quiet in Chicago.  They did however get Edgar Olmos off waivers while waiving quality reliever Yoervis Medina.  Medina must’ve not fit in the Cubbies’ system.

The same took place in January, they did however get Kristopher Negron, Munenori Kawasaki among others signed to minor league contracts.  It wasn’t until late February when the Cubs got active again.  They made a minor trade to get Chris Coghlan out of the way and receive spot starter Aaron Brooks in return.  They signed Manny Parra and Shane Victorino, key players to minors deals, but the biggest and most surprising signing was a resigning of Dexter Fowler.  they had J-Hey locked up in center, now he would move to right, kicking Jorge Soler out of his starting role.  Now that was an iffy signing unless the Cubs can find Kyle Schwarber an infield or catching position opening.

Soler was worthy of the starting position, but Schwarber is too good to bench for him.  The Cubs signed good players, but the bad thing about this team is that the players signed may not fit correctly in Chicago.  There are so many players on this team that will be benched and deserve opportunities.  I gave them a pretty good grade because if they just have players they should have starting sitting on their bench, and yet they additionally have powerful starters, it makes for a good team, but a) If the team is too crammed, it could hurt them and b) The team, especially its youth isn’t reaching its full potential.

Off Season Grade: A-

 

Spring Training Questions

 

Is the bullpen all set?

I’ve been a little worried about the depth of this bullpen.  The late inning relief in Chicago is satisfying, but the long relief sector of the bullpen could be short on players.  Sure, they got a lot of good, older minor league relievers but the only reliever that isn’t some washed up older guy besides the set up and closing pitchers is Travis Wood, who could also be needed as a spot starter!  Sure, they have Aaron Brooks now, but some of their rotation is injury prone, and they need a better bullpen to back them up.

Who will come out of the tight position battles?

The one issue with the Cubs is that the powerful youth of this team isn’t getting its shot, staying in the shadows of the big name players.  Here I will go over a couple clustered areas in the Cubs lineup, most showcasing a young guy competing with a veteran.  Note: Some of these are only significant enough for the young guy to get some playing time, not necessarily the starting job.

2B/SS: Ben Zobrist, Tommy La Stella, Addison Russell, Javier Baez + 2 others

It’s clear who gets the starts here.  Time from the bench, that’s debatable.  I think Javier Baez, Jonathan Herrera and maybe even Munenori Kawasaki and Tommy La Stella should get playing time.  Baez was nearly as strong a prospect as Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber, just didn’t power forward as quickly.  Baez deserves some serious consideration, possibly even to platoon with Addison Russell at short, but the other guys need to prove themselves legitimately before getting any significant time.  Sure, La Stella may get a couple games and injury fill-in time, but no more than that.  The other guys are lucky to get a 40-man roster spot, let alone major league appearances.

LF: Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler, Shane Victorino

This is the toughest position battle in the NL.  Schwarber or Soler?  Wait, why is Victorino even here?  He’s more of a backup then fighting for a position.  But if rumors of Kyle Schwarber moving positions are true, Victorino will be considered.  That’s a whole other story, I won’t even get in to that one.  Victorino is better in center and right anyways.  So, back to Soler and Schwarber.  Schwarber quickly found his way to the majors and into a good position on the roster, looking like a multi-year veteran.  He was only a rookie who snuck on to the roster.  He goes up against a rookie who started the year in a full time position and kept it since J-Hey wasn’t here.  Soler wasn’t as broad of a prospect, but was clearly majors ready going into last season.

 

 

Will their off season moves be worth it?

Yes and no.  Yes they will, because they have an improved lineup with more veterans, not just a bunch of strong rookies, but still have good balance.  Personally I thought Dexter Fowler wasn’t a great fit in Chicago, and he was better in Houston, and it would have been a great fit if he signed with the Cardinals.  With that the Cards would have revenge on their rivals.  That gets in to the no part.  Some of the guys they signed don’t fit right, and it would’ve been better just to leave the young sensations in those positions.  Jorge Soler losing his job to an outfield trio of Dexter Fowler, Jason Heyward and young Kyle Schwarber is a perfect example.

Projected Roster

 

Rotation

 

Jake Arrieta

Jon Lester

John Lackey

Jason Hammel

Kyle Hendricks

 

Bullpen

Hector Rondon (CL)

Justin Grimm

Pedro Strop

Travis Wood

Trevor Cahill

Dallas Beeler

Adam Warren

 

Lineup

  1. Dexter Fowler (CF)
  2. Kyle Schwarber (LF)
  3. Anthony Rizzo (1B)
  4. Jason Heyward (RF)
  5. Kris Bryant (3B)
  6. Ben Zobrist (2B)
  7. Miguel Montero (C)
  8. Pitcher
  9. Addison Russell (SS)

 

Bench

David Ross

Javier Baez

Tommy La Stella

Jorge Soler

Shane Victorino

 

That’s all for today.  See my next scouting report tomorrow on the other Chicago team, the White Sox.